Hederman’s Knowledge of Salmon

Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes… the ones who see things differently — they’re not fond of rules… You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things… they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.

Steve Jobs

The above is one of my favourite quotes; I have it framed next to our bed. It’s one of those ‘inspirational’ quotes that actually is inspirational and it lodged deep within me and never left. There is something so refreshing about people who have the confidence and that little dash of crazy to follow their dreams and passions and go out there and make things happen.

One such man is the very wonderful Frank Hederman. A charismatic storyteller with a passion for salmon, who in the midst of the deep recession of the 80s decided that opening a salmon smoking business made complete sense. Long-term fans of his smoked goods, we met the man himself recently at his smokehouse in Belvelly where he graciously opened it to tours as part of the Cork Harbour Festival.

Both Frank and Caroline gave us the warmest of welcomes to their Smoke House, just over the bridge in Belvelly. I’m always so amazed that our little island of Cobh has so many wonderful people inhabiting it and that those people are out there doing their thing and bringing our Great Island to the world.

The Smoke House is one of the buildings that was originally attached to the larger Fota Island Estate. Frank is proud to explain it’s heritage and it’s links to the estate and is very much a believer in local producers and industry, one of his local suppliers of salmon, fishes on a stretch of the River Lee not far from The Smoke House in Passage West; no mean feat considering the massive decline in wild salmon numbers.

Frank went on to explain to us how he chooses his suppliers, small and organic are important to him and things have to be run right, sustainability is crucial to a long lasting industry and the environment. The quality and taste is very much a part of the whole process and not just about what he does, therefore he chooses his suppliers carefully.

His approach to his whole business is refreshing and intriguing, not a lover of mass production his ethos is very much about taste and quality, even if that means producing far less than his competitors. Frank told us how in the 80’s when he first began smoking salmon that it was a very closed industry, secretive and suspicious. He, on the other hand, is most certainly not, we watched as he salted a fresh salmon, caught the evening before and explained how long it is salted for, what salt he uses and even described the process and friendship that developed for his quest to find the perfect tenter hooks.

He explained how his smoked mackerel was loved by the older ladies, how by choosing winter mackerel over summer mackerel he prevented that uncomfortable repetition – that repetition you get from mackerel is caused by the oily sprat they eat in summer so winter mackerel are less oily and therefore repeat less. This came as great news to Mr C as he loves Frank’s smoked mackerel, but is prone to a bit of repetition.

We were privileged to visit his prized smoke house, the engine room of his business and were greeted by the wonderful, rich smokey air as he opened the door to a treasure trove of salmon, gloriously hanging in the half light of the beech smoker. The boys were fascinated by the hanging fish and as from the beginning of the tour we were all drawn in by Frank’s storytelling of how this wonderful piece of machinery came into being. This is no run of the mill smoker, this is a custom built, Frank Hederman adjusted smoker that just can not be replicated.

Frank’s ability to tell a story and to hold a crowd is only outshone by his ability to smoke salmon. The reason why this passionate Cobh man has survived two recessions and grown a world class business, supplying Michelin star restaurants, is because his product is just the best there is on the market. It literally is THAT good. There is nothing like taking home that side of salmon, cold smoked or hot smoked and adding it to brown bread or a salad. The grown ups in our family are partial to a drop of white wine or a pint of Guinness with their’s, but Bobby likes it straight up, just the fish and as much as he can get- no need for accompaniment and I guess he is right – it doesn’t need anything else – it’s pretty spectacular on its own. Trying to get kids to eat fish can be an unwinnable battle but not when it tastes this good!

We were delighted as I said to get a behind the scenes tour of the Smoke House as part of the Harbour Festival, but Frank and Caroline regularly invite people in and you’re welcome to call when passing. But if you’re not passing this way, you’ll find Frank at the Farmer’s Market in Midleton on a Saturday or at their busy stall in The English Market. You can also check out the company on their website, but like all good salmon stories the knowledge is in the tasting, you have to try Frank’s fish.

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